On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 405 N.J. Super. 599 (2009).
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
In this appeal, the Court addresses whether a long-term commercial tenant, with a limited right of first refusal, has a protected property that is equivalent to the building owner's property interest that is subject to a potential blight designation.
Iron Mountain Information Management, Inc. (Iron Mountain) is a long-term commercial tenant operating a document storage and retrieval business in a building located in Newark, New Jersey. The building is owned by the Berkowitz Company. In 2004, the Municipal Council of the City of Newark adopted a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to investigate whether a group of properties within a twenty-four-acre zone, including the building in which Iron Mountain is a tenant, qualified as blighted, pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL), N.J.S.A. 40:A12A-1 to -49.
Following the publication of a notice of hearing and proper and sufficient service of that notice by mail on the building owner, the Planning Board held a public hearing to address whether the target area was blighted. After that hearing, the Planning Board concluded that the target area met the applicable criteria for a blight designation. On June 28, 2004, the Planning Board adopted its resolution recommending that the City Council designate the target area, including the property leased by Iron Mountain, as blighted. Thereafter, the City Council on July 14, 2004 adopted a resolution approving the Planning Board's recommendation and designating the blighted area as the "Downtown Core Development Area." That City Council Resolution also directed that a redevelopment plan for the blighted area be drafted.
On August 16, 2004, the Planning Board held another public hearing to consider the proposed redevelopment plan and, on August 25, 2004, adopted a resolution approving the recommended redevelopment plan. On October 6, 2004, the City Council passed an ordinance approving the Redevelopment Plan and, on the same day, separately adopted a resolution appointing the Housing Authority to serve as the redevelopment agency.
On November 22, 2004, Iron Mountain filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs, challenging both the initial July 14, 2004 blight designation and the subsequent October 6, 2004 approval of the Redevelopment Plan. The trial court granted the City's motion to dismiss Iron Mountain's challenge to the blight designation, reasoning that it was untimely because it was filed more than forty-five days after the July 14, 2004 City Council resolution approving the Planning Board's recommendations for the blight designation. As part of that ruling, the trial court preserved Iron Mountain's right to challenge the redevelopment Plan itself; however, it eventually became apparent that the complaint was directed solely to the underlying blight designation rather than to the proposed redevelopment plan. As a result, the trial court dismissed the complaint in its entirety.
On appeal before the Appellate Division, Iron Mountain argued that its status as a long-term commercial tenant amounted to a protected interest in the property that entitled it to the same notices that the LRHL affords to the property owner and that the failure of the Planning Board to provide it with actual notice barred dismissal of its complaint. In the alternative, Iron Mountain argued that the trial court had abused its discretion in refusing, under these circumstances, to expand the forty-five day time period for filing its complaint.
The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the trial court, concluding, after weighing the requisite due process considerations, that neither the United States nor New Jersey Constitution affords Iron Mountain the right to individual notice at the blight designation stage.
The Supreme Court granted certification.
HELD: The Legislature intended to limit the right to actual notice of blight designation to owners of record and those whose names are listed on the tax assessor's records. Based on the facts presented, Iron Mountain was not deprived of any due process protections afforded by the New Jersey or U.S. Constitutions.
1. On the limited question before the Court, it affirms the judgment of the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Baxter's published opinion, which concluded that the right of actual notice in the context of blight designation is limited to owners of record and those whose names are listed in the records of the tax assessor. The Court need not address, nor does it express a view on, Iron Mountain's additional assertions on appeal or the Appellate Division's discussion concerning them. (Pp. 5-6)
As MODIFIED, Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.
CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, WALLACE, RIVERASOTO and HOENS join in ...